Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poo Poo en Mi Cabeza

I was taking my usual stroll to work yesterday with the usual Monday morning mind haze. All was well as I approached Plaza de Mayo when all of the sudden a huge rain drop plopped me on the head. How rare, there isn´t a cloud in the sky on this cold morning.

Oh no, as you could have guessed, this was no raindrop. This was a pigeon´s way of welcoming me to the week ahead. I know this may have happened to some of you but this wasn´t just yesterday that it happened. This was the second week in a row, both Monday mornings, that a pigeon gave my red hair some character. I was in disbelief. Last Monday when it happened it obviously hit me as a surprise but two weeks in a row, not only the timing, but on the same block. This leads me to believe that it could have been the same freaking pigeon. Now you know why this story is somewhat blogworthy. Now this is probably the fourth time in my life a pigeon has let one loose on my head, I now believe that pigeons play target practice with red heads.

The first incident didn´t throw my character off too much, I was almost too tired to care and simply strolled into the next kiosko I saw to gather some napkins and comically explain ¨Una paloma hizo kaka en mi cabeza,¨ literally saying that a pigeon crapped on my head. The laughter and joy it brought to the kiosko workers was worth the Monday morning hair-dressing. Then came week two, when I had finally overcome the past and was no longer concerned about dodging pigeons´target practice.

PLOP right onto my head in nearly the same location as last Monday. This couldn´t be, I was in such shock and a strange form of anger came over me as I stepped out to the street and looked up to the building ledge and started cussing in Spanish. (For some strange reason its more entertaining to curse in Spanish than English for me, it feels more effective). Suddenly I realized that I must have looked like I was the one flying over the cuckoo´s nest since I was looking up to the skys muttering ¨hijo de puta, me cargo, la puta que te pariĆ³¨ In a nice way of saying it, I was telling this damn pigeon what I thought of it since it managed to crap on my head two weeks in a row. Note: It very well could have been another pigeon but I like to think it was the same pigeon and it has taken a liking to me. I then calmed myself after feeling like an idiot for looking up and cursing at a damn bird, I entered the same kiosko and it was like groundhog day with Bill Murray. There I was, once again, explaining how the pigeons have it out for me. The ladies at the kiosko explained how its good luck when pigeons drop a deuce on the cabeza. I then questioned whether it was good luck for the pigeon (crapper) or myself (crappee).

The rest of my day was filled with expectations for all of the good luck I have coming my way. I then started to think about being that pigeon, oh yes, I put myself in the pigeon´s world. There has to be some kind of cool award in the pigeon community for hitting the same target two weeks in a row in the same spot. I am still awaiting my invitation to the pigeon-crapping target awards ceremony, afterall, I am that target who somehow magnetizes bird poop. My route to work has changed slightly as I´ve learned my lesson, for now. I am almost tempted to walk the same way next Monday just to find out if this is a message from the pigeon gods.

Afterall, I could take the other side and believe that it was all just a huge coincidence, but hey at least I have luck on my side!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Los Campos Prevail... Victory or Defeat?

The end of a four month national struggle comes to an end, by one vote! Since March when President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner increased export taxes on all major Argentine food exports without Congressional consent, the country has been in major unrest. Weekly protests and demonstrations from both sides, the farmers and the government, had become a regularity slowly boiling with rising tensions. I was truly beginning to question whether all of the farmers' protesting would change anything or have a major affect on whether this law change would materialize.

When President Cristina finally sent the decision to congress, most thought it was a small victory for the farmers. However, speculators like myself thought this was just continuing an inevitably long conflict that would end in misery for the farmers. Judgement day in the congressional building was last Wednesday, the 16th of July, which would end up being a 20 hour day from 8am to 4am the next morning. Rallies began on Tuesday from both sides, so much so that I was sent home from work because we couldn´t even hear ourselves think from our downtown office building amidst the shooting cannons, whistles and chants. One distinguishing difference between the farmers´supporters and the government supporters is the incentive behind their demonstrations. Some of the government supporters who gathered in front of the Congress building were paid by the government for their support. The supporters of the farmers gathered in Palermo, a neighborhood to the north of the Congress building, many of whom were holding signs saying ¨We weren´t even paid to be here.¨

The clock struck 4:22 am on Thursday in the Congressional building as the country desperately awaited the vote of one man. The vote count up to this point; 36 in favor of the tax increase and 36 opposed to the tax increase. This is a true representation of how divided this country really is but like any good democracy, it came down to a deciding vote, that of the Vice President Julio Cobos. He is head of the Senate and Cristina´s right hand man... or was. He then went on to give one of the best speeches before casting his vote, so powerful that I youtubed his speech several times which nearly provoked me to watch some of William Wallace´s freedom speeches in the movie Braveheart. Cobos delivered his vote against the tax following a sincere, heartfelt speech on why he must follow his heart and go against his government. Perhaps, he summed it up best by saying ¨I agree with the distribution of wealth, I also know that one has to see a reasonable profit. To redistribute wealth, one has to create it.¨

Well done and well said in my opinion. Now the country sits in surprise that all of the farmers´cries actually made it through to the government, this democracy actually works, wow. Even so, this was a microcosmic illustration of how divided this country remains politically and economically. At least, for time being, Argentina can do its part in providing even some relief to a world very much in need of its resources. Should the vote had been cast in favor, this country may be remembered as the one country who missed on seizing an opportunity to improve its own economy by helping the global food crisis, due to its own internal conflict.

Was this victory or defeat? The jury is still out. We shall see if the country can actually rebound from this crisis and put the economy on a long-term upward swing. However if you ask the people who have lived here their whole life and if history is any indication, don´t count on it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Passin' Time in Colonia, Uruguay

"Why would you ever go to Colonia, Uruguay?" This is a question that is most often answered unanimously by ex-pats by, "to renew my 90-day tourist visa."
Yep, that's it. Then the conversation usually continues about how little there is to do in this po-dunk, nothing town. For a person who grew up in a very small town, I was actually looking forward to getting out of the huge metropolitan zoo of Buenos Aires, even if it was only for 5 hours in the afternoon/evening time. It was that time for Mike and I to renew our 90-day tourist visa. Since we don't have work visas, neither do most ex-pats working in Buenos Aires, we must comply by the 90-day rule and leave the country every three months to get a little stamp on the passport that lets authorities know we wouldn't dare overstay our welcome in Argentina.

After a quick one hour boat ride from Buenos Aires, we were welcomed to Colonia by a confused climate. For one minute it was sunny, the next it was foggy, which actually transcends a beautiful array of colors in the rapidly changing sky. We began our journey through this so-called town of nothing by walking through a big construction site which signified at least they were trying to add some buildings to this town of nothing. We finally arrived to the main highway where our choice was simple, go straight to the center of the city or go right on the main highway towards Montevideo.

Although we would have loved to take a quick detour to Montevideo, we only had five hours to discover all of the nothing there was to do in Colonia. We arrived at the main avenue that passes through the town just about 50 meters after the sign. By the time we exchanged our Argentine pesos to Uruguayan pesos, the fog had begun to set in heavily eliminating any possible return of the sun. Our rather brief exploration of the main avenue reminded me very much of little towns I had grown up going to on the eastern plains of Colorado, where life is very simple. Our appetite kicked in and we located the most cheerful looking restaurant on the main avenue where the vibes were perfect. Jazz-like music played during the foggy, cold afternoon which somewhat put us in a Christmas spirit. I can't fully explain what provided this Christmas sentiment, maybe it was the jazz music or maybe it was the small-town atmosphere in a thick fog that reminded me of the winter clouds as a child waiting for a peaceful snowfall.

Our meal was more than plentiful, the first meal that I haven't been able to finish since I moved to South America. The afternoon had escaped us and the day had turned to night without notice. Keep in mind this was in the end of June when the days are the shortest of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. We had two hours left to kill in a calm, foggy evening. So we did what anyone else would do in our situation...... we rented little motorcycle scooters to drive around and fully explore what Colonia may had been hiding from us. Total cost? A whole $7 usd for one hour to ride around our sweet new rides. It was actually a thrill cruising the streets and highways of this little town since traffic was very scarce on this foggy evening. At one point, it felt as if we were the only people in the town, driving through the foggy night. The hour of exploration via motitos (little motorcycles) reminded me somewhat of all of my bike tours through Europe, for I had forgotten how riding bikes through an unknown place provides a rare liberating feeling.

The hands and face were frozen to numbness after the short-lived, Uruguayan version of motorcycle diaries. At this point, our time was up in Colonia. I think 5 hours was perfect to explore the town of nothing. So the next time they ask, "what is there to do in Colonia, Uruguay?" I'd like to do justice to the answer and replace the whole "nothing" talk, those little motorcycles are freakin' sweet! Ok, so maybe there was nothing to do, but I'd rather be doing nothing on a scooter than on foot.

Below are some more photos from the trip. Mike took all of these pictures, so give him the credit. The first photo is of a little park we saw right when we arrived on the main avenue. The following photo is of me on my motito. The final pic is a great nighttime shot in foggy Colonia... enjoy!